Blanche takes frequent baths throughout the play to “soothe her nerves.” Bathing is an escape from the sweaty apartment: rather than confront her physical body in the light of day, Blanche retreats to the water to attempt to cleanse herself and forget reality. Blanche’s constant washing is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s famous hand-washing scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the queen tries and fails to wash the blood from her guilty hands. Blanche also seeks rejuvenation, as though the bathwater were a Fountain of Youth. But although bathing may provide a temporary respite, she can never escape the past. In contrast with Blanche’s use of bathing to escape reality, the men dunk Stanley in the shower to sober him up so that he face the real world.
Bathing Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire
The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bathing. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New Directions edition of A Streetcar Named Desire published in 2004.).
Scene 2 Quotes
Bathing Symbol Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire
The timeline below shows where the symbol Bathing appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...into the kitchen to find Stella decorating for Blanche’s birthday. Blanche is taking yet another bath to soothe her nerves, which Stanley mocks. Throughout the scene, Blanche’s singing of the popular... (full context)
...join her. Blanche reproaches herself for calling Mitch. Stanley complains about the heat from Blanche’s bath, and she retorts that a “healthy Polack” couldn’t understand about having delicate nerves. Stanley heatedly... (full context)